. . . I normally start with either a cleric or a necromancer. I pick up the NPCs available in Dagger Wound Islands to fill out the rest of my party temporarily, and head for the mainland. Depending on whether I started with a necroamncer or a cleric, I swap out Frederic Talimere or Devlin Arcanus for Ithilgore, and Simon Templar for Cauri when I find her. That's my stadard party.
I did play one game where I deliberately set out to get the top level hirelings as soon as I could, but I found it did not give me an enjoyable game. First, I missed out on the thrill of developing my own team of characters, seeing them promoted, and watching their abilities grow. Second, the party rapidly became so powerful that the game became boring. I do know that I never finished the game, although I cannot remember what stage it was at when I abandoned it.